I have mentioned that consistency and persistence are important for this whole training process and you would think that such common-sense characteristics would be easy to implement . . . think again! Even though I consider myself a rather well organized and reliable person who (for the most part) is balanced and diligent -- especially when it concerns things that are important to me or close to my heart, it has become clear to me how much I can fluctuate and even 'give up' on a daily basis. When training, letting something 'slide' is not really an option. Well, it is an option, but it means that I have just created additional work for myself because I didn't reinforce the 'rule'.
So, you say, just enforce the rules all the time . . .
Well, that is easier said than done. Let me give you an example . . . Ideally, Cura is to walk beside me (slightly ahead, actually -- essentially the base of her neck/start of her shoulder is at the seam of my trousers -- so her nose is in front of me), looking either straight ahead or at me. No 'foraging', as Rick calls it. This means that, in the event that Cura gets out of place (either to far forward or too far behind) I should correct her, and if her nose/ears are wandering all over the place, I should also correct her.
Challenge #1: My timing -- if it is off at all and I end up letting Cura get too far out of place before correcting her and I am telling her that she needs to reset to a position that is incorrect because she will reset to the position she was at the point where I corrected her. If I correct her when she is too far forward, she will think that she should maintain a position that is forward of the position she should actually be. If I don't correct the wandering attention immediately, she will think that short breaks in focusing on her job are acceptable (definitely NOT good if I happen to fall during one of those lapses of attention!).
Challenge #2: Repetition -- on a good day, how many times do you calmly repeat instructions to someone before you finally give up or blow up??? Well, giving up is counterproductive, so if I chose to give up, I am essentially shooting myself in the foot. Blowing up is at least as counterproductive as giving up and it may be worse! So . . . patience, patience, patience -- that is the key.
Since I have my good days and bad days, there are days that I am better at these things than others. So, what have I learned? Don't take on something that I don't have the ability to follow through on that day. If it is a bad day, I try to limit the amount of 'new' stuff I work on with Cura and concentrate on the skills she is more familiar with. Of course, it is best to practice every day so that Cura can learn the skills faster -- and I pretty much work on everything each day. But, some days we focus on the new skills with less time spent on the skills Cura has been working with longer while other days we concentrate on the older skills and only spend a short time on the new skills. All I do is make sure that we end on a success -- and on a really bad day, that could be a VERY small success indeed!